Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sea Princes: The Fivefold Council

My spin-off campaigns of the original Sea Princes story arc is progressing quite nicely and I've developed some new material from the game that I wish to share with the Greyhawk community. On Mondays the players have been sailing on the Hideous, a pirate ship of the Crimson Fleet (from Savage Tide) causing havoc and in general doing what they want within the rules of the pirate code. That point is important.
Their most recent exploit resulted in the accosting and kidnapping of a jeweler (and his wife) from the town of Naerie in Idee. Unbeknownst to them, a jeweler was really the cover for a retired pirate captain of some fame. Normally this is no big deal, but the trouble with this pirate's capture was he has a "Ward". No this ward is not a foster child and it's certainly not a magical abjuration per se. This Ward is a special tattoo granted to the pirate by a secretive power group called the Fivefold Council. I hinted at this group in my postfest article, The Last Respite.

The Fivefold Council (version 1.0)

Nearly seven hundred years ago, much of the many seas surrounding the Flanaess was nominally under control of the Kingdom of Keoland and the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. Always at the fringes however, were those who took to the sea to raid ports or plunder vessels of these nations. Though initially successful for a couple hundred years, the disparate groups of pirates were scattered far and wide and surely would have been hunted to extinction long ago if not for their superior skill, careful tenacity and the mysterious rise of a code of honor among their kind. All of these factors sages claim is due to the Fivefold Council.

The quasi-mythical Fivefold Council is a cryptic society often spoke of among old sailors and pirates of the Flanaess. They are mainly credited for having created a loose confederation among the early pirate factions, primarily by the introduction of the Pirates' Code, a set of laws that have over time found use in all coastal nations. Over the centuries many of those same pirate groups coalesced into nations in their own right such as the Hold of the Sea Princes and the Lordship of the Isles. Despite the political evolution of these maritime powers, there is still a strict, superstitious respect for the Council's laws though few know much about them or ever see their direct influence in the world. When the Council does deign to act however, news spreads quickly from one sea port to the next.

The Fivefold Council is functionally anonymous, reputedly ever-present and apparently has the resources to rival any power group in the Flanaess. There is no permanent meeting place for the Fivefold Council, instead it is assumed they communicate clandestinely by magical means or through well-controlled agents. It is widely believed high ranking clerics and mages connected to the sea pantheons (Osprem, Xerbo, Procan, etc.) work with the Council in such a capacity. No one knows who currently holds the five council positions and any still living who may have once been members cannot possibly know who replaced them either.

What is generally known is that the Council perpetuates its membership by a silent selection process wherein a prospective candidate can throw in his bid to join the Council at any time in the hopes a position becomes open. The nature of these bids varies, from fabulous treasure offerings to unique magical gifts or extraordinary favors. Traditionally, these bids are discreetly placed in a chest and loaded onto a small boat or raft where they are set out to sea, never to be seen again. Most of the time aspiring applicants spend many years crafting the right bid, not knowing if it is ever received nor live long enough to know if a spot was ever available. Of those rare souls who are chosen, they are sworn to secrecy upon pain of death to Nerull's Deep. Current members of the council most likely continue to operate in the public eye as their normal roles of ship captains, town governors and so forth.

The Council has no real set agenda, lurking quietly for years on end, typically keeping an eye on major events and portents that concern seafaring cultures. When a pivotal matter comes to the full councils' attention it is swiftly met with a Decree. These decrees are issued in a number of ways, but each method is unmistakably the work of the Council; thousands of notes in bottles, flocks of talking birds, one-sheets nailed to masts or plain curse-like effects such as the dreaded Black Spot. How the Council manages to deliver these notices from one side of a sea to another is surely the work of high magic or divine aid.

Further complicating the identity and aims of this secret society is the much coveted boon known as the Ward. More frequent than membership bids, these similar donations to the Fivefold Council instead appeal for special protected status among the seafaring factions of the Flanaess. The Ward is the ultimate reward sought by those who make a living by the sea, and is usually only given to those with an impressive nautical career. When the Fivefold Council contacts an individual to bestow the Ward, that person is given the right to bear a Ward tattoo on their body. This mark is non-magical and fairly well known in pirate lore (five skulls in a star pattern around the glyph for water). Attempts to tattoo the mark without consent have always turned out badly for both the recipient and the tattoo artist.

A Warded person (and their possessions) is considered untouchable in most all ports that pirates and sailors are found. History has shown that any captain or crew who defiles a Warded pirate will suffer the punishment of the Fivefold Council. The stipulation of the Ward however, is retirement. Taking action to resume their old adventurous life or abuse the protection given by the Council immediately revokes the Ward. Furthermore, the Ward does not protect a person from "landlubbers" who know little of the Council or their ways. For this reason Warded people often conceal the tattoo and take on calm, peaceful lifestyles on the coast.

(More on the Fivefold Council and what transpires in game at another time)


Michael said...

Love it Mort!

Big House said...

Thank you Mike. I plan to use this idea. I especially like the Ward element.